Some shows can tour the country and sell out theatres every night, the powerful story-telling and acting that comes from this Bill Kenwright production of Blood Brothers is certainly one of these types of shows. Playing to a packed out house at the Birmingham Hippodrome, it was a clear sign that Blood Brothers is a musical that will live on forever. It was one of the most diverse crowds I've ever seen at the theatre, its appeal translates to all ages; certainly a part of why the show so popular.
For theatre-goers who are not familiar with the story, the compelling plot by Willy Russell first begins with Mrs Johnstone (Niki Evans) and her seven children, struggling to survive and with two more babies on the way; she is carefully tricked into handing one of her babies over to Mrs Lyons (Tracy Spencer). With the promise of an affluent life for the child and on the understanding she can see him every day, she hands over baby Eddie. A true test of nature vs. nutrue. The women manage to bring the twins up apart for the first seven years of their lives, until they meet out playing one day and immediately bond, declaring themselves ‘blood brothers’. Upon discovery of their chance meet, both mothers vow to keep the boys apart which proves difficult. Skipping forward a few years the boys meet again and things turn sour; their turbulent friendship ultimately leads to family tragedy.
Having played the role in the West End and on tour for a while now, local actress Niki Evans is a powerful and emotional Mrs Johnstone. Her powerhouse vocals suit the role perfectly with emotion pouring out when she sings, translating into a terrific connection with the audience. Her Brummie accent is a distant memory here with her Liverpudlian speech almost perfection. The role is challenging, but Evans rises from strength to strength with a passion, along with the sensational story-telling of Russell, that left most of the audience leaving the auditorium in tears.
Sean Jones and Jorden Bird are a tremendous pair of actors playing Mickey and Eddie, respectively. Their on stage chemistry adds a great comedic element to the show, which at time can seem dark; their humour lightens the load of the deep story. From playing young, playful and somewhat immature young boys to the final showdown between the two that allows them both, Jones in particular, to demonstrate the serious and harrowing sides of the characters. Olivia Sloyan as Linda is of great support to Jones, much like her character, she maintains great strength throughout the show.
The only fault of this production is perhaps Marti Pellow. In fairness, the Narrator is a character that often needs to be of sinister nature, but I felt that perhaps a little overacting from Pellow lead to a more comedic role rather than the seriousness that is needed from the role. The one thing that stopped the show getting five stars.
With a stellar cast and a fascinating story, I can’t wait to see Blood Brothers again and again!
Blood Brothers plays Birmingham Hippodrome through Saturday November 3.